Widget Arms Race: Gigya Takes the Worldwide Lead

Widget platform Clearspring turned some heads last month when it said that it would have reach equivalent to the “7th largest web property” following its acquisition of AddThis, a provider of widgets that enable easy social bookmarking from blogs and Web pages. Today, new data from comScore shows that while Clearspring’s reach is indeed huge, another player in the space – Gigya – is actually reaching a few million more eyeballs every month worldwide.

According to data from August 2008, Gigya reached 174 million unique widget viewers worldwide for the month, compared to 160 million for Clearspring. Slide sits in 3rd with 154 million viewers, with other competitors running significantly behind the top three (however, it should be noted that RockYou was not included in the report). In the US, Clearspring holds a slight lead over Gigya: 71.1 million viewers compared to 70.3 million, respectively. Those numbers might swing back into Clearspring’s favor soon though, since the AddThis acquisition is not yet included in the comScore report.

In any event, what’s responsible for the huge reach of the widget providers would largely seem to be the placement of widgets on social networking sites, where Gigya says that the average widget is viewed by 25 different people. While those numbers are big, the reach of widgets isn’t quite an apples-to-apples comparison with the page views racked up by leading Web properties like Google, Yahoo, and MSN because they aren’t nearly as easy to monetize yet.

However, Gigya (as well as other optimistic companies in the space I’ve spoke with recently) see this changing. The company cites recent Forrester research and says that “with 83 percent of people trusting a friend’s opinion of a product or service, widgets, and their ability to reach friend networks as user-endorsed content, represent an important marketing opportunity.“ Gigya launched its own ad network earlier this year to begin addressing this opportunity, while Clearspring and Widgetbox have their own offerings too.

On the other hand, a global slowdown in advertising could obviously put a major dent in these plans, especially if advertisers prove reluctant to try less proven formats like widgets. Additionally, it’s to-be-determined how users will respond to increasingly obtrusive ads being placed in their widgets – especially if the brands represented don’t necessarily mix with their personal tastes.

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